[Alum Highlight] Zakiya A. Seymour’s research analyzes the social context of sanitation technology

Doctoral Candidate Zakiya A. Seymour

December 18, 2012

Georgia Tech Faculty Highlight

If there was ever any question about what a young Zakiya A. Seymour would pursue for her career, it was answered – over and over – by her doting father, Cornell Seymour (ChemE ’73).

The people who do what you want to do are engineers,” he told his pint-sized daughter when she pummeled him with questions about practically everything. “Engineers answer the questions you are asking.”

Now a doctoral candidate in environmental engineering, Zakiya has narrowed the focus of those questions, but she hasn’t stopped asking them.

Her terminal research topic, “Understanding What Sanitation Users Value- Examining Preferences and Behaviors for Sanitation Systems” looks at the wide-ranging social considerations that impact the use of sanitation technology in developing nations.

“Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I was always interested in water – where it comes from, how we use it, how to save it,” she said. “But sanitation technology – removing what we’ve put in the water – is more interesting from an engineering standpoint. It’s more complex, more of a challenge. After all, it’s easier to put contaminants in water than it is to take them out.”


A native of Georgia, Zakiya A. Seymour spent most of her first 12 years in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia before moving to Atlanta as a teenager. She received her bachelors of science degree in civil engineering from Tennessee State University and her masters in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. A National Science Foundation fellow, she expects to finish her doctoral work at Georgia Tech in 2013 and looks forward to pursuing a career with either a humanitarian organization or a government agency that is focused on aiding developing countries. Check out photos of her research below:


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